Avalanche dangers are serious for all backcountry explorers.

Avalanche Canada and North Shore Rescue combine forces

Avalanche Canada (AvCan) and North Shore Rescue (NSR) are uniting to deliver a safety message to winter backcountry users.

Avalanche Canada (AvCan) and North Shore Rescue (NSR) are uniting to deliver a safety message to winter backcountry users.

The rapid growth of snowshoeing and the easy access to mountainous wilderness is creating a situation that puts an increasing number of people at risk — including rescuers.

Snowshoeing is generally considered low-risk but like most other sports, boundaries are being pushed.

“We’re seeing many more snowshoers and in much wilder terrain,” explains North Shore Rescue team leader Mike Danks. “It’s a relatively easy sport to pick up but the nature of winter travel means the user needs appropriate skills. Trails that are fairly simple, straightforward hiking routes in the summer are much more hazardous in the winter.”

NSR and AvCan are also concerned about users who are new to the mountains and may not be aware of the well-established culture of winter safety that exists in western Canada.

“There is an onus on individual users, groups and clubs to make themselves familiar with the resources available,” says Gilles Valade, Executive Director of AvCan. “There are social media discussions about current conditions, online tutorials, and of course our daily avalanche forecasts at avalanche.ca. That’s just a start but these basic precautions can make a world of difference.”

Both AvCan and NSR encourage winter backcountry use. “It’s great to see people embracing the culture of our winter wilderness,” adds Valade. “But we always want everyone to come home after their adventures. That requires being aware of the hazards and preparing for them.”